Skip to navigationSkip to content

Border Patrol told detained woman to drink from toilets, Congress members say

Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Activists outside the Clint, Texas facility.
  • Heather Timmons
By Heather Timmons

White House correspondent

CONGRESSIONAL FIELD TRIPPublished This article is more than 2 years old.

Border Patrol agents told detained migrants to drink from the toilets in their overcrowded cells, Democrat members of Congress said after a visiting detention camps on the Texas-Mexico border.

More than a dozen lawmakers visited detention centers in Clint and El Paso, Texas during a trip led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The conditions were abysmal and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were uncooperative, they said. Congress has oversight of the agency, one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, and approves its budget.

Congress members met a detained woman who told them that CBP agents suggested she drink from a toilet if she was thirsty, said New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Judy Chu, a Congresswoman from California:

Immigration activists explained that the woman might have been referring to a common immigration detention set up, where a water fountain is attached to the top of a toilet.

CBP officers were “contentious and uncooperative,” said Joe Kennedy, the Democrat from Massachusetts. “They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video.” Some people had been in their cells for 50 days or more, and were sleep-deprived and filthy, the lawmakers reported. Women they encountered were sobbing after being separated from their children.

“These are the conditions that had been created by the Trump administration,” Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas, said at a press conference at one of the detention centers.

Earlier today, ProPublica reported on a Facebook group for Border Patrol agents, in which the agents joke about violent acts against migrants and mock lawmakers. In one post, users shared a degrading, sexually-explicit photoshopped meme of Ocasio-Cortez. The CBP’s 60,000 members control who gets into and out of the US, and its union was one of the few government unions to support Trump during the 2016 election. Earlier in Trump’s presidency, the agency ignored Congressional oversight and court orders to enforce his Muslim ban, sparking concerns it was acting unconstitutionally.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.